Saturday, 4 February 2012

Glasgow.A Culture and History Tour. Part Two.

Mercat  and Tolbooth Steeple. Glasgow Cross. The Steeple was built around the early 1600,s
Seeing as how I've already taken the photographs and walked the rest of this post I thought I'd keep all of Glasgow's attractions together for any visitors coming to the city to look up. I was asked yesterday by my sister to look up the best Edinburgh attractions for some Australian friends she has who are visiting soon for a few days in the Capital and was struck by the difference between the two cities. Don't get me wrong, I love Edinburgh and I'm through that way all the time. Arthur's Seat, The Hermitage and Blackford Hill, the history and the landscape are world class and free .I've done quite a few posts out that way already. Surprisingly, this is the first collection about Glasgow city centre and  its attractions for the tourist.
The main difference I was struck by was the price.
Edinburgh castle.£15 pounds to get in (adult prices).Mary Kings Close £12 pounds (worth it though)Dynamic Earth £12 pounds. Edinburgh Dungeon £16 pounds. Edinburgh Zoo £12 pounds. The list goes on.
A average family group of two adults two children could easily fork out  over a £100 pounds during a days sightseeing. .Edinburgh for its size is probably richer than Glasgow these days....I can see why. Hence this timely triptych on Glasgow's mainly free assortment box of attractions.

After Leaving Glasgow City chambers I Turned into John Street with Its magnificent double archways. Most Glasgow folk will know this as the place where they arrive to clear up any  rent disputes. John street being the gateway to the councils utilities and services HQ covering our little metropolis and its citizens. From here go right one block along George Street and turn left into Montrose street to behold Rottenrow Gardens, a steep but green and leafy little oasis which finds itself bang in the middle of  The University Of Strathclyde. A fine spot for lunch so I did take heed of the rumbling. Country slices and ginger beer went down well. Munch munch Slurp slurp.

This was the site of the Old  Rottenrow maternity Hospital  now long gone as I've said. Maybe they had Level floors in the hospital I hope so. Given the steep angle of these gardens though they could just as easily have had a long room here where the babies slid right out of the mothers towards the waiting doctors and nurses under gravity. I noticed the pond here was shallow and tiny. Any bigger and it would  start to roll downhill as well.
The University of Strathclyde Is Scotland's third largest University, also one of the oldest founded in 1796 Its a right mish mash of old and new buildings though. Some very old and regal but a lot like here typical late 1950,s 1960s bold slabs of concrete and glass. I must admit I quite like the contrast. Like walking though a Thunderbird's set or  a Tomorrows world idea of what our future would look like.
Its as valid a relic of its time as the merchant city is I suppose. It's also one of the largest post graduate providers in the country and has an excellent record for quality professors and teachers turning out bright students. It has had several name changes in the past. It used to be the Royal college of Science and Technology... then it merged  in the 1960s with the Scottish college of Commerce. Not long ago It linked with Jordanhill College Of Education, giving it a second campus there. Maybe because of all this expansion and change compared to the University of Glasgow's period style architecture  and unmoved history secure on its hilltop to the west  there exists a friendly rivalry between the two.
I remember a while ago seeing a University of Strathclyde white van with its black lettering  proudly initialled on its sides.It was parked just off Byres road, An enemy stronghold popular with nearby University of Glasgow students.
Underneath someone had added a wry comment with a finger on the winter dust that coats vehicles  in the space of a day's driving here." Bollocks! Yer still just a jumped up Poly!" ( Short for poly technical college I presume) Hopefully done by a student and not a U of G rival professor. I must admit it made me laugh.
They also used to call all the Strathclyde guys and gals "The techies" in dismissive fashion but now that there is a third city centre rival in the nearby Caledonian University that phrase is dying out.(Where are all these brainy people coming from, I cant keep up! What are they feeding them these days!)
At the top of the gardens a level path between 1960s buildings and various "Oh  my god what's that thing" sculptures takes you out near the top end of the high street.
I must admit, never having walked along here before, the little white  signs..." this way to campus village" conjured up images of  Scottish versions of Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley sitting beside rose covered terraces  happily chatting on the lawn about pop bands and fit teachers.
 It was a warm autumnal  day and  I'd recently watched the excellent and heart-breaking film that is .. Never let me go.
(a five hankie job ladies... even stone hearted me had to brush a bit of man grit from my eyes at the end )
Anyway.. warm sunshine... blue skies....rows of student live in apartments....not a soul around. Zilch. Not even a Carry oot Hooligan or Vera Swerveawayfromme anywhere in sight. As a guy with both eyes, a pulse and most of my own teeth I was really disappointed. Beastly bad luck once again!

This does however bring you out at another tourist honeypot. The triple whammy of Provand's Lordship(oldest house in Glasgow. 1470,s) ... the St Mungo Museum of Religion(far more interesting than it sounds as it includes examples of many faiths and religions from around the world)and Glasgow Cathedral. The Necropolis looms above. This is the ancient heart of Glasgow,where it all began over one thousand four hundred years ago. St Mungo (Kentigern was his birth name) founded a church here in the 6th century in a little meadow beside a stream. A dear green place The birth of the city.
Maybe that was why Glasgow Cathedral survived intact when so much else in Scotland was destroyed during the dark days of the reformation in the 1560,s when rampaging mobs were held at bay repeatedly by an armed ring of citizens intent on protecting it from harm. It's supposed to stand on the site of St Mungo's  original church.
The Museum is a reconstruction built in keeping with its surroundings. A Bishop's Palace or Castle used to stand  near here until the ruins were levelled to make way for the foundations of the Royal Infirmary, now looking itself like an ancient relic of the past but still serving the inhabitants of Glasgow's east end and northern Suburbs as a busy city hospital.
St Mungo's is a  modern phoenix  therefore, risen anew to take its place. All three are free entry, Glasgow having the donation,s box approach where before or after your visit ,if you wish ,you can place what you feel is appropriate for  upkeep and maintenance.(No silver buttons or washers please no matter how shiny they be.)
All three buildings are worth a visit then its time (in daylight only if you want to keep your hair and trousers) to walk up the hill to the Necropolis, The Oldest  burial Ground in the city and a shrine to the great, good, bad and famous figures of the past.
Not only is it a fascinating place and a green garden  of  many tall pillars, tombs and stone obelisks its also a great view point over the city.
Which brings us neatly to Glasgow Green, The cities oldest park from the 15thcentury onwards where generations dried their salmon and trout fishing nets on the grass, washed and bleached linen, grazed assorted  livestock and had happy family picnics watching the public hangings that used to take place. Sing while they swing was a popular event back then :).
The stone spire seen in the above photograph is Nelson's Monument standing in the heart of the park. 44 metres high it was the first in Britain to be built to mark Nelson's Victories. Work started around 1806-7 funded by public subscription from Glasgow's proud citizens. At that time the city could lay claim to a lot of firsts just like oil rich Dubai today has some of the biggest, boldest and tallest buildings in the world.
Thankfully  modern tastes are different and Glasgow Green still hangs on to its claim to have the world's largest terracotta (ceramic) fountain. "The Doulton" from the 1880,s when Glasgow was at its height. The People's Palace and glass Winter Gardens behind this building date from that time and are still a great asset to the city, providing displays of how the ordinary folk of Glasgow lived and worked during hard but also happy times and a nice place to relax and have a cup of tea and a  creamy scone admiring the palms, flowers and tropical ferns above and around you.
Sunny and warm even on the dullest day. You even have the backdrop of the former Templeton carpet factory looming over the park's eastern boundary inspired by the Doge's Palace in Venice, its colours and patterns an elegant advertisement for the quality wares produced within.
There's even a quiet stroll or cycle to be had along the banks of the nearby River Clyde, lush and green flowing through the park at this point and home to the Clydesdale Amateur Rowing Club, still going strong after 150 years and running events and training circuits  throughout the year up and down the River right in the beating heart of the city
A dear green place? I think not. Cheap as chips and twice as tasty. Salt and vinegar on Glasgow if you please. Good enough to eat ...Why not try a helping if you are in the vicinity.
Extra  Addition. (While looking up a list of  links to a half remembered but excellent book of Nigel Tranter's on the birth and early life of  St Mungo I wandered onto this amazing site. The early history of Scotland starting from the first dark age inhabitants of Drumchapel. This is the real deal in information terms. What a joy to discover such a wonderful window into our dim and distant past. Stick your X factor and  plastic celebrities where the sun don't shine! A shark that swam in a sea where Glasgow now stands, its ribs uncovered and its story told in a suburban street in modern Bearsden. Now that,s worth a mouse click. The Idea that King Arthur may have come from The stronghold of Dumbarton Rock instead of Wales or England has been proposed several times. Scotland has more links to an Arthurian legend than anywhere else in the UK in terms of ancient place names alone. Camelon, (a round tower that stood near Falkirk) and Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh. Down countless centuries history has always  been changed and rewritten by the victorious nation or the side with the most influence that's altered then eroded  the past. Even 19th and 20th century descriptions of Polar exploration and new discovery show the record books are not always to be trusted. The person who did the deed or discovered it first is not always the one who gets remembered.

Time is the great magician of facts because everyone who was there to set the record straight eventually dies and the  real truth fades away with them then disappears altogether. Does it really matter? Well ...Hell Yes! Too right it does!


The Glebe Blog said...

Another very informative post Bob.
I've a feeling that one of the culprits for the rise in clever people is the internet and the World Wide Web.
Not long ago you'd be weighed down with reference books in your studies, now all you need is a Blackberry or an I-Phone and you've instant access to every and anything you want to know.

I love the steel sculpture of Prometheus.
It made me do a little surfing to find the Glasgow Green and Gorbals Art Trail.
Maybe I'll get up to the Metropolis and do the walk sometime.
St Mungo lives !

blueskyscotland said...

Good Evening Jim.
So that,s who that Jaggy Guy was in the middle of the campus.Truth be told I forgot to put that bit of information in due to being cultured out by that stage.Its hard work learning things!
One more offbeat Glasgow post to go then its back to the easy freedom of the open hills for me.I should be back up on my feet by then.I got sidetracked by an amazing site.History of Drumchapel... which starts at the first people arriving in the area in pagan times.A fantastic and unexpected bed of riches!!This is real full depth detail and understanding of an area.Makes me realise I,m only playing at it.So its back to the normal outdoor posts for me.
As Oor Willie used to say."Time tae get back on ma bucket an dae ma stuff"